Eric H. Happe
Director of Distance Education
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
Part 2: Web Conferencing (Live Paralegal Classes)
This series addresses some technical issues important for anyone thinking about taking paralegal classes online. In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the importance of Learning Management Systems. I would like now to discuss the synchronous component of our online paralegal classes, Blackboard Collaborate.
Some may think of online or distance learning as completely asynchronous, meaning students and instructors access course content at different times and post assignments and updates periodically. This is indeed an effective and necessary component of distance learning, but unfortunately doesn't provide the synchronous or real-time component many enjoy and expect when taking classes.
Web Conferencing provides the synchronous or real-time component many feel is necessary to replicating a truly interactive learning experience in an online environment. At Center for Advanced Legal Studies, we rely on Blackboard Collaborate as our web conferencing solution and couldn't be more pleased with the results.
Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing allows:
- Real-time interaction between instructors and students
- Simultaneous audio and video of instructors and students
- Sharing of PowerPoint slides and other instructional materials
- Application sharing to demonstrate software programs and websites
- Breakout Rooms to facilitate group activities and study sessions
- Interactive tools such as hand raising and poll question responses
- Live chat interaction with students and instructors
- Session recording for future review and local download
- Mobile device support such as iOS and Android devices
The capabilities of Blackboard Collaborate are truely amazing, and our students have enjoyed attending paralegal classes online since its adoption.
Below, I have prepared a short video highlighting some of the technologies employed in our online paralegal certificate and online paralegal degree programs, including Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate. I'm not a trained narrator, so please forgive me. I have a voice best suited for print...
Online learning technology keeps advancing, and we have seen tremendous progress in the capabilities of Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate over the past several years. We feel we have adopted the very best learning technologies available, and have avoided the sketchy platforms that have hindered many colleges in providing high quality online paralegal certificate and online paralegal degree programs. The technology used really does make a difference!
Online learning is here to stay, and schools that embrace the right technologies will continue to provide students with the most effective and technologically sound learning solutions. That is our goal at CALS, and our faculty and staff are dedicated to providing students with the best paralegal education available; whether online or on-campus.
I'd love to get your thoughts and feedback! Please post your comments below.
And, if you are interested in learning more about our online paralegal certificate or online paralegal degree programs, please give us a call or request more information with the following link. We look forward to hearing from you.
Thomas B. Swanson, J.D.
Academic Dean and Faculty
"Students realize that I'm committed to them entering the field and doing well..."
An Original Paralegal Instructor
Thomas Swanson is an original. He was the first teacher that the Center for Advanced Legal Studies hired 27 years ago and his crusty charm, self-effacing humor, and extensive knowledge of the law make him someone to impress and emulate for students and faculty alike.
An Original Paralegal
Born in Washington, D.C., Swanson served in the United States Air Force from 1971 to 1976 where he worked primarily as a paralegal. He received a Commendation Medal for his outstanding service as an investigator in the USAF Foreign Claims Commission in Taipei, Taiwan. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Florida, he came to Houston, where he entered the South Texas College of Law, graduating with a Doctorate of Jurisprudence. He was licensed as Texas attorney by the Supreme Court of Texas in May of 1981. After having worked for a number of years at an established Houston law firm, Swanson started his own firm in 1986.
"I started with zero clients," he says. So when the brand-new Center for Advanced Legal Studies advertised for an instructor, he applied. Teaching would fill up some of his extra time and provide financial compensation during an uncertain period. Swanson couldn't know all the other benefits that it would provide.
An Original Paralegal Instructor
The role of paralegal is relatively new. When Swanson started, most paralegals were in government. Often, the only non-legal support person employed by an attorney was a legal secretary. Paralegal education was in its infancy; there were no curricula or texts to teach students the profession. But Swanson knew what had made him successful in the position and used that knowledge and a commitment to the college and its students to develop the first paralegal course.
And he's still teaching. Swanson currently teaches about two classes a term and over the years has taught every law course that the school offers. He is also still practicing law; he is a trial lawyer in civil, family, and criminal law.
"I do what I teach," he says.
An Original Innovator
Paralegals have become fully integrated into the practice of law in all areas, so their roles and duties have expanded, and so too must their training. In an effort to stay current and engaged, Swanson makes sure his classes are responsive to the needs he sees demonstrated in the profession in which he actively participates.
One of the benefits of having taught for almost three decades is that Swanson crosses paths with past students almost every day. He even runs into the children of former students. He gets together with graduates to find out what they are doing and what they are involved in and that feeds into his teaching. He's also not above asking them for help and they are only too willing to provide it. Everyone remembers Thomas Swanson.
Improving the Original
Although he had been a substitute teacher for HISD, Swanson admits that he was no teacher at first, but learning how to communicate effectively with students has made him better at speaking in the court room.
"Continuing to teach makes me a better lawyer because the new generation of students helps me understand their priorities and thoughts and forces me to move with the technology. I can escape being the practitioner and explain and enjoy; it makes me think about what I'm doing and why."
Students are Changing
Swanson feels that students have changed over the years. They are better educated and more serious than the ones he first taught. And many of them now have advanced technology skills. Swanson works hard to change with them.
"I keep thinking that they're getting younger, but it must be me getting older," he says.
Students enjoying collaborative learning in Mr. Swanson's on-campus paralegal classroom.
Sometimes Originals are Still the Best
"Students realize that I'm committed to them entering the field and doing well, so that's why they and the school's administration put up with me."
Center for Advanced Legal Studies offers an online paralegal certificate program and AAS Degree program. Paralegal programs are also taught on-campus. Call 800-446-6931 for more information or click the button below and an admissions adviser will be happy to discuss your interests, the paralegal profession, and answer your questions at your convenience.
Joy Oden is an Adjunct Professor at Center for Advanced Legal Studies and a Guest Blogger for CALS. Here, she writes about CALS' paralegal faculty member. Most often she writes about students because she is continually amazed at their desire to change their lives, their ability to overcome difficult circumstances, and their determination to help others.
It's your life. You have the starring role. But what's your vision?
Because you are reading this I'm guessing you are interested in being cast as a player in the legal professon. Maybe a leading role as a paralegal. But how do you decide? And, how do you get started?
Here are 6 questions that will help you define your vision.
1. If the world were your oyster and you could have any career, what would it be?
Don't ponder the answer for long. What comes to your mind immediately? Steer clear of those intruding thoughts that begin telling you why it can't be done or that it's a silly idea. Asking yourself this question helps you clear away the clutter. In keeping with our theme, it helps you audition in the right play and for the right role.
"The only thing worse than being blind is having NO VISION."
One of our students recently gave this plaque to her admissions advisor, Elaine Prappas, at Center for Advanced Legal Studies. This photo of wall art reminded her of how Ms. Prappas helped her move forward, define, and accomplish her vision.
2. What are you passionate about?
This is a great question. What types of situations and projects get you excited? What is it that you just have to do? What comes naturally? The things you identify here will help you hone in on your passions.
Now, connect a few dots.....
3. How does a paralegal career include the answers you gave in question #2 above?
Most paralegal students tell us they are interested in and often say they 'love' the law. Maybe they genuinely desire to help people. Or they are peace makers and want to be involved in the process of setteling disputes.
Years of our surveys tell us that students in both online paralegal classes and on-campus classes often enjoy research of all kinds, like to organize, are good at detailed work or like solving problems and so much more. These are all things they enjoy. And they are all interests that connect perfectly with the paralegal profession.
4. What don't you understand?
Now that you've connected the dots to this particular career, what questions do you have? Maybe a few of the following:
Where are the opportunities for paralegal employment?
What does a day-in-the-life of a paralegal look like?
How do I prepare for this career?
What needs to change in my life so I can do this? Schedule? Attitude?
What is the first step to getting started?
All great questions. Now, you need to find an authority to help you answer them. If you know people in the profession, talk to them. Talk to several of them. They will all have their particular point of view. Sometimes similar to each other. Sometimes different. You need to listen and digest the information. Then, pay particular attention to the pieces that fit best with who you are and the vision you have for your life.
A word of warning, listen to but be cautious of people who are dream-killers. These are the people who often use the words can't, won't, don't, difficult, etc. Real downers. There is a difference between objective truthers and negative thinkers. Be discerning.
5. Where is your leverage?
What information, knowledge, relationship, etc. do you have that can provide you with a 'lift' into the profession? Previous work experience, connections with attorneys from personal or professional association, time, money, skills, talents, resources? What do you have that others don't have?
In my humble opinion, your leverage can be as simple, but no more important, than your interest in the law, determination to begin a successful career, and your attitude toward accomplishing your vision.
Like Henry Ford once said, “If you say you can or you can't you are right either way.” It's true, our thoughts determine our actions and ultimately our outcomes.
Now, hold on for the last question and the BIGGIE!
6. What are you afraid of?
In general fear, more than anything, keeps us from starring in the play of our dreams.
Initially, you may say that you have no fears. But I suggest you be really honest and look a little deeper. What is keeping you from accomplishing all that you dream? Why is it holding you back? What can you do about it?
You have to be bold to answer this question honestly. Once you do, and you figure out if you have anything to overcome to move ahead, you'll begin walking the path meant for you.
It might be that all this sounds a bit like a fairy tale...or does it? Maybe that fairy tale could be your life. And, maybe it's about time for you to step into the story.
Once you do, take a bow.
To help you with the 'what you don't understand' question above (#4), receive an interesting brief of "10 Things You May Not Know About Paralegals".
Admissions Advisors at Center for Advanced Legal Studies are here to help answer your specific questions about the paralegal profession and our paralegal programs. Learn how you can live out your vision of beginning a legal career. Contact us at 800-446-6931, email@example.com.
Gail Armatys, Co-Founder & CAO
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
As co-founder and administrator of CALS, Gail focuses on providing excellent services, programs, resources, and results to students. She is passionate about helping students accomplish their goals through completion of CALS' paralegal programs.
There is no doubt about it, attorneys often come to rely on their paralegals to conduct client interviews. In fact, most of the lists that outline the responsibilities of paralegals include 'conducting interviews'. The National Association of Legal Assistants - Paralegals and most other paralegal - related organizations place the following item at the top of their list:
Conduct client interviews and maintain general contact with the client, so long as the client is aware of the status and function of the legal assistant, and the legal assistant works under the supervision of the attorney.
Having good, solid interviewing skills and technique is important and can help you gain leverage whether you are just starting out as a paralegal or have legal experience. The ability to interview clients is valuable enough that many campus and online paralegal programs include an Interviewing and Investigation course.
Here are a few basic interviewing tips that will help you as you prepare for and advance your paralegal career.
The Paralegal Interviewer
You’ve landed your first paralegal job, yay! Your supervising attorney then informs you that a client will be coming into the office that day for an initial interview. She’d like for you to sit in on the interview. There is a scheduling conflict and now the attorney has to be in court. Turns out you will conduct the interview by yourself. You suddenly become very nervous and unsure of whether you will be able to handle it...
2. Paralegals Must Be Prepared
You Can Do This!
1. Set The Tone
The first few minutes will set the tone of any interview. Therefore, if you start off on the wrong foot with your interviewee, it may be difficult to rebound.
Make sure to greet the interviewee warmly, smile, offer him/her a beverage, and engage in small talk. Inform your interviewee approximately how long the interview will last and the topics you wish to discuss during that time. Knowing what to expect will help the interviewee feel comfortable with you and ease his/her nerves or fear.
In order to conduct a successful interview, you must be prepared. This means researching the substantive law related to your case and reading through the file facts. Prior to the interview, you may want to prepare a list of questions or topics to discuss.
Be aware though, that this list serves as only a guide for you. You should not engage in a rigid series of Q&As. Rather, attempt to converse with the interviewee about the issues at hand. Getting into a dialogue helps the flow of the interview and with it, an increased amount of disclosure from your interviewee.
3. Never Let ‘em See You Sweat
You might find it daunting to come face to face with someone you don’t know to discuss heavy legal issues. While it’s understandable that you’re nervous going into the interview, don’t let it get the best of you. Remember, you’re already prepared, so be confident. However, if you haven’t reached that level quite yet, feign it. In other words, fake it til’ you make it! Put on the appearance that you are confident, even if you are not, because confidence leads to control. If you are in control of the interview, you will be more focused on the task at hand.
4. Questioning Styles
The success of any interview is determined, partly, by the types of questions asked: open-ended and closed-ended.
- Open-ended questions allow the interviewee to offer a considerable amount of information. An example of an open-ended question is “tell me why you’re here.” You will usually start with this type of question since you’re trying to get a handle of the overall problem.
- Closed-ended questions, on the other hand, can be answered with a short response. An example of a closed-ended question is “what color was the light as you approached the intersection?” Use this type of question when following up your open-ended questions. Closed questions give you an opportunity to gather the specific details of the event or incident.
5. Are You Listening?
Many times, we get into the bad habit of waiting to talk, rather than really listening to what somebody has to say. The conversation then becomes one-sided, on both ends, because the parties are simply talking out loud at one another.
Listening during an interview is imperative because it affirms to the interviewee that he/she is being heard and that his/her responses are important. Understanding the following two types of listening will make a difference in your connection with the interviewee.
- Passive listening is hearing what is said but not reacting. You are simply processing the information internally.
- Active listening is hearing what is said and repeating that information to the interviewee by summarizing or paraphrasing the responses. Repeating the interviewee’s answers not only lets him/her know that you are listening, but it also allows the interviewee to clear up any misunderstood information.
Utilizing these various listening techniques proves to the interviewee that you are dedicated and invested in what they have to say.
6. It’s Not What You Say But How You Say It
Have you ever gotten the feeling that something was wrong with a friend, but when you asked the question, his/her response of “nothing” just didn’t satisfy you? This is because their body language conflicted with their verbal response.
Nonverbal communication means any part of communicative expression other than the actual words used. Tone of voice, eye contact, posture, handshakes, are all common examples of nonverbal cues that can be assessed during an interview. Is the interviewee averting eye contact? If so, maybe he/she is lying about something.
Be keenly aware of these expressions because nonverbal communication can determine the quality or credibility of the interviewee and his/her responses.
You got through it! It may not have gone perfectly, but you’ve got a learning experience at your disposal. After the interview, evaluate the exchange to determine the effectiveness of your methods, techniques, and questions. This way, you can strategize how to conduct the next interview so that it’ll be even more productive and successful than the last.
Although this advice is geared towards paralegals conducting legal interviews, most of it is applicable to job interviews as well. Good luck and remember, be confident (or fake it)!
For more information about Center for Advanced Legal Studies' on-campus or online paralegal programs, please call 800-446-6931 or request the free brochure below.
Sahar Grovas is an online paralegal instructor at Center for Advanced Legal Studies. She is a practicing attorney in the area of personal injury and auto subrogation. However, prior to obtaining her law degree she was a paralegal for many years.
"Being in an intellectually stimulating environment, school or career, is simply exhilarating. There is nothing better in life than learning, no matter the source. To combine those two passions by teaching students about the legal field is incomparable. I'm proud to be a part of it all!
There are specific reasons people choose to buy one product over another.
Selection criteria might be made based on size, color, texture, fit, cost, what your girlfriend said or what your mother prefers.
There is a lot to consider. If you are going to be pleased with your purchase you want to enjoy what the product provides and be happy with the benefits, service, and results.
Choosing where to receive your paralegal education is no different. Size of classes, depth and breadth of courses, tuition, class structure, graduate success, and employer satisfaction all play into making the right choice.
Here are 8 things to consider when choosing the right paralegal program.
1. Specialization. Today, people understand the importance of specialization. Probably foremost from experiences with the medical field. A more recent move to specialization has taken place in law firms. It makes sense; focus on a specific area to gain more knowledge, ability, and success.
CALS specializes in paralegal education. Everything about Center for Advanced Legal Studies focuses on training you and advancing your career as a paralegal. Every dollar spent, faculty member hired, staff position created, textbook selected, and graduation ceremony organized is about your success as a paralegal. Center for Advanced Legal Studies thinks, eats, breathes, and sleeps the paralegal profession.
2. Accelerated and Effective Programs. Everyone knows that time is money and we are busier now than ever before. So like the rest of us, students are always looking for the quickest way to get somewhere or do something. In this case, the point is to get an education and begin an enjoyable career.
Not surprisingly, the length of a paralegal program may or may not be the best indicator of an excellent, substantive education. A lot depends on content, instruction, teaching format, and the student. Having said that, CALS has accelerated its programs in a manner that allows you to complete in as little as 7 months (paralegal certificate program), yet provides substance, skills and knowledge in enough areas of the law to be effective and increase employment opportunities of graduates.
Some paralegal programs offer short-term on-campus or online paralegal programs assuming graduates are prepared to work alongside attorneys.
Really? According to U.S. News and World Report, the average law school indebtedness of 2012 law school graduates with debt was $108,293. Tell an attorney who spent over $100,000 and 3 years on their law degree you are ready to 'help' them after a couple of courses and a few hours of training. Not very believable.
3. Career Services. Most of us don't attend college because it is how we prefer to spend our time. In a perfect world, it would be a fine way to while away the hours, and hopefully also very enlightening. In today's competitive market, we generally believe college is the pathway to living our dream. In the case of paralegal students, the dream is to be a part of a professional, respectful, challenging, and important career field. The paralegal profession.
If you are interested in beginning or advancing your paralegal career, Center for Advanced Legal Studies has 27 years of experience helping students accomplish this goal.
In fact, in the most recent survey (2012), 93% of CALS' paralegal graduates secured a position within 90 days. 75% within 30 days.
How do we do this? CALS provides personal one-on-one career coaching for online and on-campus graduates. The Director of Career Services has not only developed personal relationships with employers throughout Texas but is also utilizing an online interviewing technique that allows employers from across the country to quickly and easily review graduates' resumes, videos, and class projects.
4. Technology. If you are interested in attending on-campus or online paralegal programs, researching the technology used to help organize your class and for online class presentation is important. The technology used impacts a student's a) enjoyment of the class, b) level of understanding, and c) success.
In the January, 2013 issue of Forbes Magazine, Jeremy Johnson, Cofounder of 2U indicates that in order to have an online experience that has the same student outcomes, the same level of quality as on-campus (classes) at the best schools in the word it requires actual interaction with professors, small group classes and real adissions standards. Center for Advanced Legal Studies offers all of this.
High quality outcomes equivalent to campus based classes
Interaction with the professor
Break out sessions and classes in small groups
Admission standards; bachelor's degree or successful completion of entrance test for undergraduates
Eric Happe, Director of Distance Education at CALS, states in an article entitled Three Technologies That Make Our Online Programs Succesful, "There are a few things you might want to consider before deciding which paralegal program is right for you. As Director of Distance Education at Center for Advanced Legal Studies I know the importance of selecting the right technology to promote the success of online classes. The cornerstone of any online program is the Learning Management System or LMS. We chose Blackboard Learn as our LMS for these primary reasons:
Learning to utilize premium educational technology will make the difference in your online paralegal program experience and in the end can help you advance in your career.
5. Friendly Staff. Most of us assume that no one selects a college based on the 'friendliness' factor. Yet, the friendliness of our staff is something our students comment about frequently. Why? It's important. Don't you like to spend your time with people who care? CALS students are happy students.
Quite often our Admissions Advisors are thanked for being so informative and our staff for being so helpful. It surprises me to hear that there are colleges out there that are reluctant to provide information to help the decision making process. Makes me curious.
Actually, the fact that we care about your professional choices and future is why we keep doing this. Your success matters to us from beginning to end. We help you when it gets hard and celebrate your successes with you along the way. In fact, now 'days there might be nothing more important than attending a college that makes your success their business.
6. Expert , Committed Faculty. Most paralegal programs have faculty who understand and have experience in the area of law in which they teach. In some online programs, the only way you know of your instructor is in the videos you watch. Here, on-campus and online paralegal faculty are hired because of their passion for teaching and desire to invest their experience in your future.
CALS' lead faculty have an average of 18 years of instruction with Center for Advanced Legal Studies. That has to be a record! They are faithful. And, they have staying power because they understand the impact of their instruction on students' lives, the legal community, and the clients that are served. In other words, their expertise and committment in helping students make a difference in the lives of others - makes a difference.
7. Tuition. My parents always valued education. I knew that growing up. I remember my dad often saying that "education is the best investment a person can make." This from a financial advisor. Anyway, I agree. The question isn't "is there value in receiving an education?" Or, "how much does this education cost?" The best question is, "what am I going to receive in return for my investment?"
I'll be the first to admit that the tuition of other programs may appear to be less than the tuition at CALS. But dig deeper. What do you receive from your education? How much will you gain by attending? Does it matter that you attend more or maybe fewer classes? What is the paralegal program's track record? What about graduate success? Does your tuition help fund other programs or are you paying only for your paralegal education? Is financial aid available? Is there a program satisfaction guarantee? Based on the college's historical data, will you likely be employed upon graduation?
As a private college that specializes solely in paralegal education, you will find our tuition comperabale to the tuition of most state funded institutions and quite a bit less than other private colleges.
Center for Advanced Legal Studies knows and appreciates the investment our students make and the trust they place in us. We take this very seriously. That is why at CALS, we believe there should be a career at the end of your program and we have been successful in helping make that happen thousands of times.
8. Employer Satisfaction. In the end, employers of paralegals are the key to validating a paralegal program. As an example, very recently a gentleman contacted CALS after researching a variety of paralegal programs. He then spoke with two attorneys in order to gain their opinions and suggestions about various programs prior to enrollment. They both referred him to Center for Advanced Legal Studies.
This is not an exclusive instance, but it is an important one. Based on experience, who do employers of paralegals come to trust? Graduate performance and the service provided by the Director of Career Services is their determining factor.
As implied in the beginning, choosing the right paralegal program requires research, diligence, and asking good questions (all important skills for paralegals, by the way). And like most investments, the program should be a good fit and provide positive results.
Oh, and as a reminder, a little advice from your mom may still be a good thing.
For more help, click here to request your Free Guide to Choosing a Paralegal Program.
Gail Armatys, Co-Founder & CAO
Center for Advanced Legal Studies
As co-founder and administrator of CALS, Gail focuses on providing excellent services, programs, resources, and results to students. She is passionate about helping students accomplish their goals through completion of CALS' paralegal programs.
Michelle Baker – Tenacious Professional
It was the strict admonition of a caring parent that triggered Michelle’s interest in the law. When the movie Helter Skelter came out, her father felt his 18-year-old daughter was too young for its graphic content. She did not watch the movie, but she did become curious. So when she came across the book several years later, she bought it and read it. But it was not the gruesome details of Charles Manson’s murderous rampage that captured Michelle’s imagination, it was the law and its machinations that the prosecutor employed to try to bring the famed killer to trial. She was amazed at the detail, complexity and depth in the law and she was hooked.
Taking the First Opportunity to Be Part of the Law
At the time, Michelle was working as an administrative assistant, so when a job as a legal secretary came up, she applied. She took a cut in pay but got the job and began a mentoring relationship with the sole practitioner lawyer that continues to this day. During the early years together, the lawyer would close the office at three o’clock every Friday and sit his eager young secretary down in the board room to explain the law, the judiciary, and the state court system, honing her knowledge and skill. His tuition was so effective and her ability to learn so keen that when she moved to another city, she was well qualified to work as a legal secretary.
Over time, Michelle’s work became that of a paralegal and she started to consider the benefits of structured education in the area. But mothering duties and life intervened and Michelle was satisfied with her situation, until a bitter divorce forced her into a position that meant work and accreditation were critical. That was when she enrolled in the online classes at Center for Advanced Legal Studies. At first, she was unsure about online learning, but she has found that she loves it.
Online Paralegal Learning
“The online system is interactive, and surprisingly, I’ve made a lot of friends, chatting during class and working together on projects.” And the quality of the education and the educators themselves has met Michelle’s high expectations as well.
“The courses are substantive and the teachers know how to use the technology to the student’s advantage. Some of the teachers are hard, but as long as you show that you’re willing to work, they’ll bend over backwards to help. They are extremely knowledgeable and are experts in their fields.”
The Qualities of an Effective Paralegal
Currently, life is full for Michelle. She has three children. She is going to school at night. She is working full time. In fact, she is back working with her first mentor who created a position within his firm just for her. So she is still learning a lot and making lots of contacts, and she is proud to be an effective paralegal. She says,
“Lots of people are organized and passionate about the law, but being an excellent paralegal means having integrity, being resilient, thinking outside the box, but within the parameters. Each case is a puzzle, all knotted up. I enjoy sorting through the tangle and seeing what’s plausible, what works. It takes stick-to-itiveness.”
Sticking to your Dreams
And Michelle has that quality in plenty. Just like the young woman who did not forget the movie her father had forbidden, an older Michelle knows what she wants and will work to make it happen.
She has her sights set on law school. Her dream is to start a non-profit organization for women who are going through divorce. The organization would provide legal advocacy, support and even a co-operative for babysitting services and meal delivery. I’ve no doubt that she will make it happen and that she will help many women in the process.
Interested in a legal career? Find out a few more facts. Request '10 Things You May Not Know About Paralegals' by clicking below. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1.800.446.6931 to find out how we can help you accomplish your career goals through specialized paralegal education.
Joy Oden is an Adjunct Professor at Center for Advanced Legal Studies and a Guest Blogger for CALS. She writes about her students because she is continually amazed at their desire to change their lives, their ability to overcome difficult circumstances, and their determination to help others.
Whether you’re interested in a paralegal education or already a paralegal, you may be wondering what jobs are available for paralegals. What if you are not interested in working as a traditional paralegal? Are you looking for something different, but don’t know what else you can do with a paralegal certificate or degree? Here are just a few related jobs that applicants with paralegal training can branch into:
Do you enjoy reviewing contracts? A contract administrator makes sure the parties involved practice due diligence and comply with the terms, conditions, rights and obligations of a contract. He or she also coordinates any changes to the agreement that might occur over the course of the contract and performs the closeout process when both parties have met their obligations. If you loved your Corporate and Business Law class, then this may be an area of interest for you!
Editor for a Law Firm or Business Publisher
Many law firms employ editors to write and edit their firm newsletters or press releases. Was Intellectual Property one of your favorite classes? If you have an interest in IP and have excellent proofreading skills, you can work as a marketing assistant. New patent applications, responses prepared by legal staff, and other related documents will be edited and proofread by you.
If I.T. is your niche, a career in litigation support may be the perfect path for you. Litigation support professionals assist attorneys in managing large-scale litigation, designing and implementing databases for managing, sorting, indexing, and abstracting large volumes of data produced during the litigation process. Litigation support professionals also develop data management strategies, assist with technology in the courtroom, provide user support training on both off-the-shelf and proprietary software, and coordinate with technology vendors. Some litigation support professionals are paralegal/I.T. hybrids performing traditional paralegal tasks, while also assuming information technology roles.
Legal Staffing Recruiter
Is sales your strong suit? If so, you may want to consider a career in legal staffing. Most legal staffing recruiters are former attorneys, paralegals or firm administrators. As a legal staffing professional, your primary job is promoting staffing services to attorneys and firm administrators. Therefore, it is very important that you are well-versed in legal terminology and procedures, as well as familiar with the document management programs utilized by law firms.
The good news
According to US News, “The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 18.3 percent employment growth for paralegals between 2010 and 2020, adding 46,900 positions. The anticipated growth is leaps and bounds above that of lawyers.” There are many other jobs a paralegal graduate can branch into beyond those listed above. Do some research and figure out how your current skills plus a paralegal education can propel you into the job you’ve always imagined!
Tina Ghanavati is the Director of Career Services at Center for Advanced Legal Studies and has many years of experience helping students and graduates attain externships and employment. Are you interested in a paralegal career or Career Services offered by Center for Advanced Legal Studies? Contact us at email@example.com or 1.800.446.6931.
The great debate
When employers look to hire a new employee, which do they believe is better—education or experience? Does book knowledge outweigh hands-on experience? Or would a “seasoned” employee be a better addition to the team?
Those on the education side quickly cite various statistics on the impact of education on a person’s future, employability, and earnings. Yet, those who lean to the side of experience always bring up famous college dropouts like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.
Someone with a formal education and considered “book smart” may easily deal with real-world work situations. However, they may still have a hard time landing that first job if they lack experience. On the other hand, the person with experience but lacking any formal education may do well in certain positions. However, they may find it difficult to advance professionally in their chosen career.
So what is the solution? What is the answer?
Here’s what I have seen to be true: the debate should not be education versus experience. It should be education and experience. Both are a necessary to help a person to obtain a job as well as map out their development for a better career and personal growth.
Many employers view the college graduate as a person with a proven academic record. They have mastered complex subject matters. The college graduate has gained the ability to think analytically and logically, and they have been exposed to an intellectually stimulating environment. They can rise in the ranks within an organization, taking on more responsibility along the way. College graduates are not viewed as someone who can only perform a single task, but are expected to bring to the table everything they have learned. They then must be able to apply those skills and knowledge to help solve real-world organization problems.
Employers also value someone with that real-world, “already seen that, been there” experience. Experience shows that a person can perform in a real working environment, not just in the sterile classroom environment. Experienced individuals have performed certain tasks within an organization and understand how business works on a day-to-day basis. Individuals with experience may bring with them a sense of wisdom from having already performed tasks in a real-world environment.
The whole package
As jobs become more competitive, employers are looking for candidates that come with the “whole package.” Employers are looking for talented individuals who demonstrate valuable and usable abilities, as well as an education that will enable them to advance in an organization. Someone who possesses real-world experience and has earned their education credentials has a better chance surviving the resume cutting room floor.
How to gain both
Some education programs today offer a chance to gain real-world experience while attending school. There are great schools, colleges, and institutes that offer students the opportunity to preform while at school, doing work in a format similar to what the graduate should expect out in the working environment. Internships, externships, hands-on training, apprenticeships, and much more can add experience to a resume. Center for Advanced Legal Studies is committed to offering its students opportunities to gain real-world skills and experience through our paralegal training and our externships.
With the right combination of experience and education, your resume becomes more relevant. YOU become more relevant. The more you can show you know, AND the more you can show you can do, the more employers will be interested in taking that closer look when hiring. Having the right education and establishing your experience will boost your resume to the top of the stack.
Doug Walker is an Admissions Advisor at Center for Advanced Legal Studies and has great experience in the higher education realm assisting students reach their education and career goals. His greatest success is seeing YOU succeed. If you are interested in the solid paralegal education and work-experience our programs can provide, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.446.6931. Center for Advanced Legal Studies: Experts in Paralegal Education. Committed to your success.
Making the decision to go to college can raise some financial questions. What if it costs more than you think you can afford? What kind of financial aid can you receive? At Center for Advanced Legal Studies, we are committed to helping each paralegal student get all the funding he/she is eligible to receive.
Your first step to apply for financial aid is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The key word here is FREE. It can be intimidating at first glance, but if you go in prepared to research and spend a little time, you will realize how easy it can be. Don’t ever pay anyone to complete the FAFSA for you.
The process has gotten simpler over the past couple of years, because you can now retrieve you and your spouse’s and/or parent’s income information directly from the IRS. In other words, you don’t have to struggle anymore trying to find your adjusted gross income, taxes paid, and income earned from work, etc. Now you can retrieve all this information with just the click of a mouse. Not only does this streamline the process of the application, it also cuts down on human error.
For the FAFSA, you’ll need to determine your dependency status. Why? Because it determines whose information you must put on the FAFSA. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need your information and your parents’ or guardian’s information on the FAFSA. “Oh,” you say, “I have a job and my own apartment, and I pay my own bills.” This alone does not make you an independent student for financial aid eligibility. If you are classified as a dependent student, you must report both you and your parents’ or guardian’s information.
If you are classified as an independent student, you will only report your information (and your spouse’s information if you are married).
When to Apply?
You can complete the FAFSA as early as January 1st for the upcoming award year. For example, if you are planning to attend college in 2014, you can complete the 2014/2015 FAFSA as early as January 1, 2014. You will be required to use your 2013 income tax information for the 2014/2015 FAFSA. It can get a little confusing because most colleges and universities have their own deadline for awarding certain funding, so check with your school. Because we are a continuously enrolling college, Center for Advanced Legal Studies does not have a deadline. You just complete the appropriate FAFSA prior to enrolling.
Where to Apply?
You can complete your FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov.
Haven’t decided where to go to school yet? No problem, you can list several options you are considering, and each school will receive a copy of your FAFSA. You can always add another institution if needed. (If you wish to add Center for Advanced Legal Studies to you list of college options, our school code is 026047.)
Bottom line, do your research and apply as early as you can. The 2013/2014 FAFSA is available now and the 2014/2015 FAFSA will be available on January 1, 2014.
Lori Baggett has been the Financial Aid Director at Center for Advanced Legal Studies for 20 years and has helped thousands of students receive funding and finance their paralegal education. She is an expert on Financial Aid and committed to assisting our students. If you are interested in a paralegal education and the personalized financing options available to you, contact us at 1.800.446.6931 or email@example.com. Center for Advanced Legal Studies: Experts in paralegal education. Committed to YOUR success.
By Thomas B. Swanson, J.D.
Let’s take a look back in time…
During most of the history of the practice of law, legal documents were handwritten by skilled paralegals first known as scribes and later as scriveners. Legal documents during this period were customized, and the quality of the handwriting, in addition to the content, was important. In other words, legal documents were distinctive, in part, because the handwriting added an artistic quality. Beginning in about 1900, this was to change in a major way with the introduction of the typewriter.
The typewriter offered not only much greater efficiency with respect to the preparation of legal documents, it also established a much greater uniformity. The distinctive handwriting of the scrivener gave way to a new consistency in format and a greater focus on content. The result was no less than a transformation of the practice of law, as well as the role of the paralegal. The “Perry Mason/Della Street” era in the history of law practice had begun, and the legal secretary became the primary non-lawyer presence in the law office.
A change in skill-sets…
Scriveners typically had a significant knowledge of the law, including both Latin and vernacular terminology, as well as handwriting skills suitable for the preparation of legal documents. The important qualities of the legal secretaries were rapid, accurate typing skills and the ability to take “shorthand.” Thus, the specialized handwriting skills of the scrivener gave way to secretary’s skill in using symbols and abbreviations so as to take down the verbalizing of legal documents and correspondence from the attorney. The ultimate effect of this change in skill sets was a wide range of variance of legal knowledge on the part of legal secretaries. Some legal secretaries were “key beaters,” meaning that they prepared legal documents with little understanding of the law or the content contained in the documents that they prepared. Others developed such a great understanding of the law that some legal secretaries became licensed attorneys without having to attend law school.
The introduction of word processers in the 1970’s and desk top computers in the 1980’s to the legal workplace ended the era of typewriters and “dictaphones” and eliminated the need for most legal secretaries to know how to take shorthand. These advances in technology diminished the need for legal secretaries because drafts of documents could be easily edited, meaning that the preparer of a document did not have to re-type a corrected draft in its entirety. Legal secretaries began to be replaced by paralegals, who were multi-skilled non-lawyers with formal education and training in the law.
Where we are now…
The most recent major change pertaining to the preparation of legal documents is the move to “formulary practice.” It is characterized by comprehensive uniformity of document content in many practice areas, including real estate law, family law, probate law, debt collection law, and so forth. For example, the State Bar of Texas offers comprehensive uniform document systems such as the Texas Family Practice Manual, Texas Probate System, and the Texas Collections Manual. These systems are provided in paper and digitized formats and provide comprehensive “fill in the blank” forms for every aspect of the practice area.
In addition to formulary practice systems for specific practice areas, there are also general online formulary systems. One such common system is ProDoc, which is owned by the same folks who own Westlaw. ProDoc is a comprehensive online formulary system for both litigation and office practice documents and, like Westlaw, access is obtained by subscription (normally limited to legal professionals). The advantage of the online system is that changes to documents mandated by amendments to statutes, regulations, and rules of procedure can be incorporated into system’s documents immediately. Formulary documents are not identical because the needs and problems of clients vary. Rather, formulary documents have basic formats that are capable of being edited. This is just one reason why legal training is required in order to properly use such systems. Using a formulary document without a complete understanding of the document and how it should be edited to suit a particular need or problem can harm rather aid the client.
A word of advice to paralegal students and working paralegals: When preparing a document from a formulary system, review it carefully before sending it to the attorney for review and again before sending it out. Do not simply “press a key and assume that all is well.” Remember that a critical duty of the paralegal is “quality control” so that errors are avoided.
The move to formulary practice of law should reduce the cost of legal services and lead to new duties and challenges for the 21st Century paralegal. What a wonderful time in history it is to be a paralegal!
Thomas B. Swanson, J.D. is the Academic Dean at Center for Advanced Legal Studies and has been teaching at CALS since 1987. He received his Doctor of Jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law in 1981; prior to that he served in the Air Force as a paralegal and obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida. “Give me students with a little bit of interest in the law, and they’ll have a whole lot of interest before they leave.”
Are you wanting to find out for yourself why now is a wonderful time to become a paralegal? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.446.6931 with any questions about the paralegal profession or our paralegal programs.